Illinois was a hoot.
I drove along the Ohio River to where it meets the Mississippi at the southern tip of Illinois. The point of confluence is south of Cairo, pronounced “Kay-roh”.
The murky Mississippi merges with the much larger Ohio River – which was confusing for me. Shouldn’t the larger river keep its name? It makes me think that the outlet of the Mississippi was named before it was known that it combined with the Ohio, but I can’t be bothered to actually look it up.
No hugely interesting stories out of southern Illinois. Corn and grain farmland bordered by tree groves and doted with “horse head” oil wells.
I was able to switch out my flag in the city of Chester.
Chester is the birthplace of the creator of Popeye, so there are statues around the city of Olive Oyl, Popeye, Bluto, and others.
I saw the flag in a public park next to a Popeye memorabilia store, Spinach Can Collectibles. I went into the store just before they closed and asked the store clerk, Debbie, about who manages the flag. She said she couldn’t say for sure, but that her friend Colette, who is a community leader, may have an idea. I left a voicemail for Colette and was called back within minutes. Colette liked the idea and enthusiastically offered me the mayor’s phone number.
Mayor Tom Page thought it was an unusual yet reasonable request.
Unfortunately, I caught him at a bad time. He was walking out the door to go to his kids kindergarten graduation, but he took the time to call the local police department and ask that they lend me a hand. I spoke with officer Joe over the phone, and he picked up James from maintenance on his way to meet me at the park. We made the swap and took pictures from my camera and from his. At Joe’s request, I wrote down a little more information about my trip (how long it will take and how far I was through it, etc.), and I encouraged their local newspaper to call me should they decide to move forward with an article.
It’s not going to be the most impressive flag story I come home with, but for me it will hold meaning.
All the way up and then back down the chain of command everyone I talked to was unreasonably polite and enjoyable to briefly meet, especially considering that I was bothering everyone after normal working hours. So thank you Debbie, Colette, Tom, Joe, and James. There usually haven’t been that many people involved with previous flag swaps, and they are hardly ever that painless, which leads me to believe that you’ve got a good thing going out there.